Safe consumption site opens in Victoria to help combat growing overdose crisis

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WATCH: More evidence tonight that the overdose crisis gripping B.C. is not just a problem for Metro Vancouver and the Downtown Eastside. The latest numbers show that Nanaimo is worse off than any other B.C. city on a per capita basis. Yet as Kylie Stanton reports, at this point Victoria is the only island city getting a life-saving safe consumption site – Dec 20, 2016

A safe consumption site has opened in Victoria, one day after B.C.’s chief coroner confirmed the number of fatal overdoses has risen sharply.

“We were able to move really quickly and get this set up in a matter of days,” Our Place Society director of communications Grant McKenzie said.

On Vancouver Island, there was a 153 per cent increase in the rate of illicit drug overdose deaths between January and November of this year, the highest of all health authorities in the province. That’s a rate of nearly 20 deaths per 100,000 people.

READ MORE: 9 overdose deaths in one night prompt officials in Vancouver to demand more treatment

“What those numbers represent for the most part are people dying at home or at a friend’s home, not at a supervised consumption site,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said Monday. “In fact, we have no deaths reported at the supervised consumption sites.”

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In Nanaimo — which has seen 25 fatal overdoses this year, giving it the highest overdose rate per capita in the province — the idea of a safe consumption site hasn’t moved past the discussion phase.

“We need to stop thinking of this whole thing as a war on drugs, because when you do a war on drugs it’s really a war on people,” Michell Latour of AIDS Vancouver Island says.

READ MORE: Spectre of withdrawal drives some opioid users

The pressure to move things forward is on. There is concern Carfentanil is beginning to make the rounds and things could quickly go from bad to worse.

“Users are going down quicker, and suffering a deeper cardiac arrest situation than what we’ve ever seen,” paramedic Lance Stephenson said.

Organizers hope safe consumption sites will prevent users from getting to that point.

McKenzie said the model is not only simple, but easily adaptable.

“It’s reached that crisis point, where anything you can do – get it done.”